Saturday 22 October 2022

CBR14 Book 29: "Ti kniver i hjertet" (Ten knives in the heart) av Nora Dåsnes

Page count: 250 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

Tuva is about to start seventh grade (age 11-12 here in Norway) and is very much looking forward to seeing her best friends Linnea and Bao and catching up after a long summer apart. She shares all of her hopes and fears writing and drawing in her diary. 

When she gets back to school, however, nothing is as she was expecting. Linnea has a boyfriend now, and doesn't really want to hang out, playing in their secret treehouse in the woods. She just wants to talk about boys, and lipgloss and tries to make Tuva figure out who her type is. Bao wants nothing to do with all the talk about boys and girly stuff, and soon Tuva is torn between her two best friends.

Tuva isn't all that interested in boys or makeup, she still likes listening to music and playing in the woods and spending time with Bao. But she's also rather dazzled by Linnea's pretty older sister, who has an Instagram account and wants to be an influencer. In the really rather difficult phase between being a child and a young adult, Tuva is easily swayed by ideas of how a girl should behave, who and what she should like. She doesn't want to have to pick sides when her two friends seem to have diametrically opposite viewpoints. Then a new girl starts in her class, and Tuva begins to feel some of the stuff Linnea has been going on about - but can a girl really be "her type"?

While there is a hint of queer romance in this story, the main themes are the difficult friendships between girls and the very confusing process of coming of age, when you're no longer exactly a carefree child, when hormones make you confused and you're not quite old enough to be a teenager either. This is Nora Dåsnes' debut graphic novel, aimed at at a younger audience than her YA graphic novel Ubesvart Anrop. The themes here are less heavy than the collective grief of a nation, survivor guilt and depression, but they are still important for young readers to face head-on. 

As a teacher in secondary school, I teach kids in 8th to 10th grade. They come to our school when they are 12 or 13 years old, and many are still very immature and rather childish. By the time they graduate at the end of 10th grade, they are 15 or 16 and have gone through massive changes, both physically and emotionally. It's both a fascinating and deeply frustrating age to be responsible for their learning. While these girls are a year younger than the kids I teach, it's really not just a myth that a lot of girls mature faster than boys (by no means all, but in many cases). So it seems realistic that this sort of identity crisis between who one is and who one is going to become might happen earlier for a lot of girls. 

I thought this was a stand-alone story, but it turns out that Dåsnes had been working on a sequel for a while now, showing the further adventures of the three girls. In the new book, which was released only a few weeks ago, Bao gets involved in school politics to save the river and woods behind the school, so it sounds like one of the major themes is environmentalism. It's nice to know that someone is making engaging and well-told stories for middle graders. I hope that Dåsnes has a long and successful career ahead of her.

Judging a book by its cover: I like Dåsnes' art and the cover gives a good idea of what it looks like. It's a cute cover with inviting colours. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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